Look at me! I'm posting again! Yay!
Norm took it upon himself to show Ava the lessons Max had uploaded onto the pad, and he insisted that I lay down and rest before I did anymore viewing. That's when he showed me out behind the long-house where they'd pulled together a hammock that looked a lot like the one I'd used my first night in Hometree. After I made sure Ava was okay with Norm and Thomas was out in the obstacle course again, I took Norm's advice. I still wasn't tired, and I still couldn't relax. I kept thinking about Grace and Tommy and Amelia, and I had no idea how to make all of it stop. These three people, two of which I thought I'd known better than anyone else, all seemed to share the same secret, and it made me feel like an outsider.
Apparently, Norm was just as insightful as Mo'at, because within minutes of me laying in that hammock, despite me not being able to blank out my mind, I fell asleep again for the first time in a day.
I dreamed I was back on Earth, with Tommy before we'd even known about all this. Since learning about him knowing about this, I'd actually been thinking about the last time I'd been with him. It was still a little blurry, but this dream felt real, like all this thinking and learning had awakened the deepest parts of my memories. Before he'd been scheduled to leave, but after I'd come back from Venezuela, there had been a few times when we'd had dinner together. Or well, we'd tried. Mostly, we'd spent most of the time with him trying to convince me that my life wasn't over. I'd been in a wheelchair without any real means of resolving that particular situation, and I guess I hadn't really wanted a good reason to keep going.
"There are a lot of things you can do without having to shoot a gun, Jake," he'd told me at one point.
"Like what? Be a scientist? Fly halfway across space to figure out where I came from? Like you?"
"Maybe," he chuckled. "Listen, I don't like seeing you like this. You're not always going to feel this way."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Because you're special, Jake. Like me. I mean, look at us. We're already unique. Anything I can do, you can do better. You just have to keep your head up. You're better than this. I know it."
I remembered looking at him like he was crazy. He'd been studying to go on some research mission — I hadn't known which one at the time, and there I was, in a wheelchair without the ability to dress myself without professional help I refused to employ. He was goin' places. Not me.
"You're the special one, Tommy," I said softly.
"You're special too, Jake Sully," he replied, and this time there was something in his voice that made me think he knew something I didn't. His eyes, while they'd always looked at me with hope and insight, were different now. I looked at him, and it looked like he was trying to will me to believe what he was telling me. "If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to make sure you know that you're not worthless. You can make a difference the way you are right now, and no one can tell you any different. Who knows? Maybe one day you'll lead a revolution on an alien world."
I didn't remember this part of the conversation, and it felt like I was making it up as I went along. Suddenly, I was sitting in the Crematorium looking over Tommy's dead body. But I wasn't the only one there this time.
Besides the two RDA guys, there was a young woman on his other side, dark hair falling around her face and obviously pregnant as she reached for his face and caressed his cheek. I didn't recognize her for a few seconds, and then she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, revealing her face to me.
"Everything's going to be okay, Ava," she whispered, holding her other hand over her belly. "He's in a better place now. She'll keep him with us now."
Then she looked at me.
And I realized that I had seen her on the base before leaving with Grace and Norm after arriving in Tommy's place.
Light woke me as I still laid in the hammock behind the long-house, and I opened my eyes to see it was morning. I laid still for several minutes, thinking about my dream and knowing it wasn't just a dream. I was being shown something I needed to know to figure this out, and it felt like I could do that now that I knew more than I'd known before closing my eyes. She protects only the balance of life.
Neytiri's voice resounded in my head, and I thought about Tommy. Was it possible this had been done so I could be here instead of Tommy? Was it even fair for me think like that after all this time?
I left the hammock without any real resolve to do anything productive, and when I stepped into the Long-house, I saw Ava and Thomas asleep in their respective beds, so I didn't bother them. I saw the pad back on my bed, and it was obvious Norm had wanted me to keep looking at Amelia and Grace's logs. I figured since I didn't have anything better to do, I might as well find out everything I could before I took Thomas and Ava back Home.
Amelia's next log was date-stamped less than twelve hours after the previous one, and I could see something different in her eyes. It had been a while since I'd seen it, but I swear I could see hope in her eyes.
"Well, it's still May 4th, but it's just after 1300 hours. We completed the first trial injection this morning. Grace says it'll be a few weeks before we know if it worked. I have to admit, being able to do something for once made me feel a little better than just taking injections and wandering around base without anyone to talk to about how I'm always so moody and always so cranky. I can't have any strange food for the next few weeks to promote the procedure, so Grace made me a list of things to get from the mess hall."
She smiled then, for the first time in weeks, reaching for the video link and touching a few buttons before she spoke again. "I also got my, uh, transmission today from back home. Grace's friend is apparently very punctual. And I was about to send him a reply, so I'm going to attach his message onto this log so it'll be encrypted. He's a doctor, and he's supposed to be finishing his training now to be on his way here in about a year. Grace said she told him I needed a friend who wasn't on the base, and I think we could definitely be friends. He has a sibling, a brother who's off somewhere with the military. He said his brother's name's Jake. I told him about my sister. So here he is."
The log didn't end, but the image changed. My heart leapt into my throat immediately as I stared at an image of Tommy as he sat in his habitat at the research facility. The first thing he did was smile and wave.
"Hello. I'm Tom. But Jake calls me Tommy, so you can too if you want. Dr. Augustine said you needed someone to talk to, and I guess she picked me because of what she told me about what you're doing. I've never done anything like this before. I'm not really good talking to women. Jake tried to set me up with a girl once, and I bored her to tears talking about my research. So I'll try not to do the same thing to you. Dr. Augustine told me about the experiment, and I just wanted to say that I think you're probably the bravest woman I've ever, uh, met. I wonder if that makes me brave too, but I guess we'll see in a few years when I get there. So anytime you need to talk, you call me. I don't care if it's three in the morning and you feel like shit. I'm here for whatever you need. And I'll try not to get too technical when I call you back. But I won't make any promises."
Tommy talked to her for over an hour, talking about Norm and the program, and he told her about me a little more than what she'd already said. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My brother was talking to this woman like he'd known her for years. He was talking to her like she was an old friend. I wondered if Grace had told him not to be so formal. I wondered if he'd thought about the future, when he was dead and this woman was almost five light-years away from him.
Norm emerged from the airlock while I was sitting there, stretching and seeing me there, but he didn't ask if I'd slept. I think he already knew I had or he wouldn't have left me in the hammock. But I guess the look on my face told him something was wrong, and he moved to my side.
"What is it?" he asked sitting on the bed.
I handed the pad to him and watched him go through the log again, and I could tell his reaction was the same as mine.
"I can't believe it," Norm said. "I can't believe he never told me about this, about her. We trained together for three years, and he never mentioned this to me at all. How long did it go for?" he asked looking at the other logs.
"I don't know," I said. "I just saw this one. But Grace did it. Because she was expecting Tommy instead of me. It's no wonder she wasn't happy to see me. And not just because I had no idea what I was doing."
Norm scrolled through Amelia's logs and then Grace's, but he didn't open another one up. He was quiet for a few minutes, looking at Ava and Thomas and then giving the pad back to me. "It'll be okay," he said finally. "I mean, I know I never thought Tom could keep something like this from all the people he had to report to, but we're learning it now. And we know now. We're putting the puzzle of Ava together now, and Max said it would only be a day or two before we have everything worked out." He paused, inhaling deeply and smiling slightly. "You should have heard Ava last night. She caught on so fast, I couldn't show her and teach her fast enough. It was amazing."
I grinned, looking at Ava as she slept. "Yeah, she is pretty amazing. I want to get her back Home soon. That way I can teach her myself."
He stood up abruptly. "Of course," he said, but I could tell he wasn't convinced.
I looked at him. "What?"
"Nothing," he said, moving toward the door.
I followed him, leaving the pad behind. "No," I said, "what's that tone for?"
"It's nothing," he said again. "It's just that she's obviously different from everyone in the Clan, and we both know how resistant the People are to those who are different. There are still a lot of them who won't accept me. Most of them accept you because you helped them. You saved them. I only fought with them. None of them ever talk to me whenever I come, except Mo'at, but that's only because you've told her that I won't hurt them. At least I did look like them. But Ava doesn't look like them, not really, and you know a lot of them won't accept her. Whether you tell them to or not, do you really think any of them will trust her when they barely trust me? Even Thomas looks at me like I don't belong there."
"I've talked to him about that," I insisted.
"I know," Norm said quickly. "But you should already know that you're not going to be able to change everyone's minds. They're always going to feel the way they feel. And if they feel that way about me, it's going to be worse for Ava."
"I'm not leaving her here," I told him with as much finality as I could. "She's my responsibility. I found her, and I'm going to take care of her. Whether most of them accept her or not. She doesn't belong here anymore than she belongs there."
"That's just the thing, Jake," Norm pressed. "She doesn't really belong anywhere. Are you really going to subject her to the kind of looks and words I get or you got? We could handle that stuff because we understood it. She won't understand. She won't belong there."
"Then she'll belong with me," I hissed, angry for the first time in over two days. And I know I scared Norm, because he backed up a couple steps. I didn't apologize, but I softened my face, glancing back into the house where Thomas and Ava were still sleeping.
"I'm sorry I brought it up," Norm said after a minute. "I should know by now that you'll figure something out. I just want her to be okay. She's so unique, and if anything bad happened to her . . ."
He didn't finish, and I didn't need him to. I knew how much I'd be asking the Clan to accept Ava the way they'd accepted me. At least I did look like them, and it was easy to overlook my differences. It would be a lot harder for them to overlook hers, and I knew how dangerous it would be for her. But I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't going to leave her here on the base for Norm to study her. She wasn't staying on the base. Period.
"I have to do this," I told him. "And not just for myself. Now that I know Tommy knew about this, I have to do right by her, and leaving her here isn't right. Please understand that. Try to see it from my point of view."
Norm didn't respond to that, but I had to hope he would humor me just this once. I didn't want to tell him about my dream, but I still needed his input. I needed his fresh perspective, and it was now or never.
"And it isn't just about Tommy," I began. "I had another dream last night. About him."
I told Norm the rest of the dream, including the part where I knew I'd seen Amelia on base before we'd left for the mountains, and I could tell he was interested. Norm always got this look on his face when he got his mind set on something new. This whole thing with Ava was turning out to be the biggest thing either of us had ever hit head on, and if it was throwing me for a loop, I could only guess what it was doing to Norm.
"It does make sense that one of us would see her," he said after I told him. "Especially if she knew Tom. I can't imagine what happened to her when she found out he was dead, and that you were coming in his place. She probably wanted to see you, and Grace wouldn't let her. At least that would be my guess. But keep looking at her logs, Jake. I'll keep Max on the science part of this. You just learn what you can, and we'll see where it takes us, okay?"
I nodded solemnly, watching him ease down the front steps of the house and then make his way across the compound to the outside lab.
I glanced back into the house, making sure Ava and Thomas were still asleep, and I made my way in the opposite direction to the lake I'd never visited while I'd been here. I needed a little time alone to think, and I knew Thomas would find me if he wanted me. Maybe later, we'd go through the obstacle course together.
Now it might be a little while before I post again, but I will post again. Thanks for reading!